Four observations from the 2012 State of Origin series
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Queensland player Greg Inglis (centre) in action during State of Origin 3 against the NSW Blues at Suncorp stadium in Brisbane, Wednesday, July 4, 2012. (AAP Image/Dan Peled)
Another year, another Queensland State of Origin victory. While some New South Welshmen will find solace in the fact that the Blues appear to be inching closer to an elusive series win, the harsh reality is that the 2012 State of Origin series concluded with an all-too-familiar result.
The Queensland Maroons won their seventh consecutive series, and did it the hard way, winning by a single point in game three, courtesy of a late Cooper Cronk field goal.
It was a hard fought series, with some of the most bruising and punishing defence in Origin history. As the book closes on another chapter of Origin football – this one probably named ‘Petero’s farewell’ – we analyse four observations from the 2012 series.
1. Please, no whinging from the Blues or their fans
While I’d like to consider myself an objective sports writer, come Origin time it’s hard to put one’s loyalties to the side. Truth be told, I like the banter between the two states at this time of year, I enjoy the one-eyed bias that accompanies it, and I have no hesitation in getting involved in a little bit of it myself.
Part of that bias is obviously concentrated on refereeing decisions. Yet I want no part of blaming the officials for last night’s result.
In my opinion, the refereeing throughout the entire series was not up to Origin standard, and game three was no exception. However, I don’t think it was unbalanced at Suncorp Stadium, and therefore played little role in the actual outcome. It was bad both ways.
In terms of the most contentious call of the night – the Justin Hodges try – I have zero issue with the decision. In fact, I’m still trying to work out how anyone could claim that it was a shepherd. It was a try, no doubt at all.
Brad Fittler called it the worst decision he’s ever seen in Origin. However, this was the same man that said Ben Creagh had suffered a ‘twenty seven centimetre’ cut to his head. Get a ruler out Freddy – if Creagh had a 27cm cut, his brain would be popping out.
Queensland won fair and square. Jog along, whingers.
2. Have a rest, Mitchell
You’d have to think Mitchell Pearce would be at long odds to get another shot at Origin next year.
All series long, in the most important position on the park, Pearce offered little in attack. He rarely threatened the line, had no dynamism or subtlety with his passing, and his kicking lacked variety, skill and precision.
In fact, it was interesting to notice the Blues utilise different kickers in attack last night, particularly Robbie Farah and Jarryd Hayne. What does it say about your halfback when the hooker and winger are preferred options with the boot?
Pearce supporters point to his defence when they argue his case for selection. However, he missed plenty of tackles in this series, and none were more costly than his miss on Johnathan Thurston in the first half, which led to a crucial Maroons try seconds later.
Despite never really nailing down his spot, Pearce has played halfback for the Blues since game three in 2008. And yet he is still to guide his team to a series win. While the reason for the Blues lack of success cannot be attributed to just one player, Pearce can’t continue to be given a free ride in the number seven jersey when his performances for NSW do not warrant it.
After all, what’s the opposite of “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it”?
3. The Blues choked
For two years in a row, the Blues have saved their worst game for the deciding match of the series.
For all the progress that many feel the Blues have made, at the end of the day, they still face the reality of losing another series. Improvement is irrelevant at this level of football. Winning is the only thing that matters.
The frustration for Blues fans with last night’s loss is not just that the Blues failed to win, it’s the fact they played dreadfully. Missed tackles. Dropped ball. Poor kicking. Forced passes. Kicking the ball out on the full on a restart.
These were not ‘positive’ mistakes, but fundamental errors that you would chastise a schoolboy for making. It was dumb football, and it was ugly to watch the Blues self combust.
It wasn’t just errors of execution either.
The Blues persistent kicking early in the tackle count was nothing short of baffling. It certainly wasn’t a case of the Maroons defenders being out of position and the Blues attempting to catch them off guard; NSW were kicking early in the tackle count to locations on the field that were well covered.
Queensland didn’t play exceptional football, but they made fewer mistakes, and took their opportunities when they were presented. The Blues, on the other hand, were woeful.
When you’re outplayed, you give credit to the opposition, and take the loss on the chin. But when you lose the series by a single point, and you’ve shot yourself in the foot, it’s a bitter pill to swallow.
4. In Queensland’s seven year reign, this was their most impressive series win
When a team’s success is labelled a dynasty, you can be assured that many impressive victories have been earned, and such is true of Queensland’s seven years of domination.
Yet, I tend to believe this was their most impressive series win yet.
The Blues have definitely closed the talent gap, and actually played better than Queensland for large amounts of the series. It looked like NSW were finally going to break the Maroons’ stranglehold on the Origin trophy, but the Maroons simply refused to let go.
Despite not playing great football, carrying some older members of the squad, Cooper Cronk delivering a sub-par series, Billy Slater playing hurt and then being ruled out of the decider and the Blues mounting plenty of pressure upon them, the Maroons still found a way to win.
Though we always like to witness a gifted team show off their sublime skills, sometimes it’s even more impressive when said team has to call on different talents, like resolve, grit and intelligence.
Bravo Queensland, all kudos to you, because you’ve really earned this victory.
And, annoyingly, your fans have earned another year of gloating.
Ryan is an ex-representative basketballer who shot too much, and a (very) medium pace bowler. He's been with The Roar as an expert since February 2011, has written for the Seven Network, and been a regular on ABC radio. Ryan tweets from @RyanOak.
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